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Giovanni's Room Paperback – September 12, 2013
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“If Van Gogh was our 19th-century artist-saint, James Baldwin is our 20th-century one.” —Michael Ondaatje
“A young American involved with both a woman and a man. . . . Baldwin writes of these matters with unusual candor and yet with such dignity and intensity.” —The New York Times
“Absorbing . . . [with] immediate emotional impact.” —The Washington Post
“Mr. Baldwin has taken a very special theme and treated it with great artistry and restraint.” —Saturday Review
“Exciting . . . a book that belongs in the top rank of fiction.” —The Atlantic
“Violent, excruciating beauty.” —San Francisco Chronicle
“To be James Baldwin is to touch on so many hidden places in Europe, America, the Negro, the white man —to be forced to understand so much.” —Alfred Kazin
“This author retains a place in an extremely select group; that composed of the few genuinely indispensable American writers.” —Saturday Review
“He has not himself lost access to the sources of his being —which is what makes him read and awaited by perhaps a wider range of people than any other major American writer.” —The Nation
“He is thought-provoking, tantalizing, irritating, abusing and amusing. And he uses words as the sea uses waves, to flow and beat, advance and retreat, rise and take a bow in disappearing . . . the thought becomes poetry and the poetry illuminates thought.” —Langston Hughes
“He has become one of the few writers of our time.” —Norman Mailer
About the Author
James Baldwin was the author of Go Tell It on the Mountain and The Fire Next Time, among other books.
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In many places during those time the risk of harassment and arrest, combined with a diagnosis of mental illness, likely clouded over what could have been honorable and lovely life experiences for young men, such as in the beginning of the book when David woke and observed his friend Joey still asleep.
Now that the world is not so cruel, at least here in the West, where society is less apt to treat the Giovanni's and the Joey's as something akin to zoo animals, and more like human beings, capable of innocence and passion, perhaps a character like David would embrace and celebrate his knowing these two, instead of reacting to an inevitable sense of revulsion he was taught to feel. As it was, an unkind separation from David might have been Joey’s good fortune, unlike Giovanni's fateful end after investing so much time together.
Since there were no words like homophobia sixty years ago and society had not come to terms with how two men might love each other, I wonder why Baldwin knew to write Giovanni’s Room. He may have lived some of David’s dishonesty; but did he also have his own “Joey” experience, where he found himself in the arms of a friend one night, a friend who then walked away and turned on him? I ponder whether he processed some pain by writing about this character David, a character that rained collateral damage on Joey, Giovanni, and Hella, and in the end had to face the consequences of what he had wrought as dawn signaled his return to Paris, and to a circle of life that began the morning he forced himself to walk out of Joey’s house in Brooklyn, away from a friend that deep inside he might run back to in an instant if the world had been a different place.
and characters of so many cultures, in such a real, honest and beautiful way. "Giovanni's Room" is romantic, sad, and perfect~ it tells the truth about a time and culture that still exists in many ways today. I read his non-fiction "The Fire Next Time" and was in awe. His fiction is amazing too. Read "Another Country" before this novel~ another wonderful book. But I think "Giovanni's Room" is better and also a good place to start if you are interested in Baldwin's fiction. The characters will stay with me for a long time.
Mr. Baldwin's novel is bold and powerful, superbly written, and I strongly recommend this amazing piece of literature.